The creative traits of great business leaders


Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and head of design Marcos Weskamp

Fast Company recently launched part one of their two-part ’25 best CEO-Designer Duos’, calling out the 25 “dynamic partnerships that are shaping today’s most innovative companies.”

Whilst we don’t disagree with the partnerships selected, and recognise their influence both within their business and indeed the modern world, we really wanted to see a list of the people that are both CEO’s and Designers. It’s not uncommon; look at Christopher Bailey’s move from CCO into the CEO slot at Burberry this month, ex-Apple VP Tony Fadell who is the founder and CEO of Nest, or littleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir, (who believes “everyone is creative – and everyone is a techie”).

The Moving Brands business has always been creatively-led. CEO (and ex-CCO) Mat Heinl shared what this means for us, and for our clients.

“I’m seeing more and more importance being put on creativity, customer experience and design from the most senior of our clients. This is really good news for us – in short, more and more of these guys get it, even if they don’t do it. However the challenge to creativity is more often in the middle layers of companies, where people struggle to connect the dots between marketing, design and business. I think that’s because they have worked in silos and aren’t often exposed to the bigger picture, or encouraged to achieve a shared goal. We’re in a position to help them on that journey.”

Mat shared the personal traits he believes are invaluable for an individual that is driving creative change in a business – whether they are a member of the MB team partnering with a client, or the client themselves:

– “having taste. Yes I mean taste. It’s rare and it’s valuable

– being comfortable with ambiguity

– recognising patterns

– being able to work in varied teams, different skills and cultures

– systems thinking (this relates to that… If this happens, that should…)

– asymmetric thinking (what if we just sliced across it?)

– rigor

– empathy

– speaking plainly

– ability to flip mindsets

– being able to efficiently communicate something complicated, multi-dimensional and narrative based (sketching / wireframing / storyboarding)

– oh, and understanding commerce is really important. Please don’t think that creative companies can’t have serious operations and approaches to finance (despite the many examples that don’t).”

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts. And please share any innovative, inspiring creative business leaders you’re aware of that should be on our radar.